Click it or ticket!

[Click it or Ticket!] Nearly 100 law enforcement officers joined Governor Frank Keating on the south steps of the State Capitol in a united effort to save lives.

In his 1999 State of the State Address, Keating called for a reduction of drug and alcohol-related traffic fatalities by half, and an increase in DUI arrests by one-third. In addition, Commissioner of Public Safety Bob A. Ricks has called for a statewide plan of action to achieve a 70 percent safety belt compliance rate by July 2000.

In 1998, 126 lives would have been saved if alcohol-related fatalities were reduced by half. In the same year, 15,824 alcohol and drug-related arrests were issued. An increase of one-third of those citations would compute to an additional 5,275 citations to meet the goal.

At the press conference, Department of Public Safety officials unveiled two traffic safety campaign logos with the themes "Click it or ticket!" to increase safety belt usage, and "Booze it and Lose it!" to reduce the number of alcohol-related deaths.

"We have focused on education and raising public awareness of the dangers of not wearing a safety belt. Now it's time to focus on enforcement," said First Lieutenant Stewart Meyer.

Meyer said although they have experienced a gradual decrease in traffic fatalities, the percentage of those not wearing safety belts in these crashes still remains high.

Oklahoma is 33rd in the nation in safety belt compliance with the most recent rate at 60.7 percent. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that an increase in safety belt use by Oklahomans to 70 percent could save 41 lives and reduce the number of injured persons by 839 annually. NHTSA reports this increase in compliance could result in $54 million savings in total economic impact, including reduced medical costs and lost productivity.

"In December, troop commanders from every field headquarters gathered to participate in a safety initiative summit," Meyer said. "The chief of the highway patrol, the assistant chief, majors, captains on down participated in a brainstorming and planning session. Our goal was to develop an organized statewide effort and today begins the implementation of that plan."

Each troop commander was required to create an area-specific plan of action for the safety belt compliance and substance abuse initiative. Individual plans were submitted to DPS officials, and law enforcement agencies throughout Oklahoma were contacted for support of the program.

"Highway patrol troop commanders will submit monthly reports of safety belt compliance in each of their areas of the state," Meyer said.

Troopers will conduct safety belt compliance surveys, and driver license checkpoints to encourage the use of safety belts and to eliminate driving under the influence.

"To meet the goals set forth by Governor Keating, our initiatives not only include stepped up enforcement, but also a dramatic increase in public support," said Meyer. "We're thrilled with the overwhelming response we've received from other agencies. We have a common goal, and that is to save lives. With mutual support, our program will be successful."